Day 13 cntd (19th September 2009)
The Stinging Nettle (Goldhawk Road) 3 x ½ Bombardier, ½ Kew Gold £6.06
The scheduled rendezvous point was at Goldhawk Road, where we discovered that our new recruits were already waiting for us at The Stinging Nettle – just over the road from the station. Our feminine hoard managed to stay together on the journey down the Hammersmith and City line, albeit in boisterous, high-decibel fashion which may have slightly unnerved some of the other tube customers going about their Saturday business.
The pub itself had had a right proper makeover, all fancy wallpaper and stylish chandeliers in the main bar. It had some snazzy outdoor tables which actually folded down from the wall of the pub, plus plenty of eclectic looking furniture in the main room. There was an upstairs bar too, but we didn’t really get to see that because it was being used for some private bash or other. The little cherry on top, though, was the small roof terrace on the first floor overlooking the rural beauty of Goldhawk Road, accessed via a spiral staircase near the front of the pub. It was on this glorified window box that we found Lisa, the Birthday Girl, her sister Sara, and her fella Matt, busy getting involved with some celebratory Jaeger-Bombs that Louise had wasted no time in buying for people.
Professional to the end, me and Lewis stuck to the ale, which we were delighted to discover was in seriously good condition, if not the cheapest we had seen all tour. Gareth was also pleased to find that they had Tyrell’s crisps – he had probably gone almost 20 minutes without eating anything by this point. We managed eventually to drag everyone, Lisa included, away from their mouthwash flavoured liqueurs and back out to the street for a group photo, which in turn made it easier for us to persuade them all to join us back on the tracks – even if that meant that the noise in our particular carriage was building to a deafening crescendo.
Bar FM (Shepherds Bush Market) 2 x Gin and Tonic, 1 x bt Stella, 1 x bt Bud £14.00
Well this one was completely off the radar. We weren’t 100% sure where we would end up from Shepherd’s Bush Market station, but thought it would probably be the Edwards bar on the corner of the Green. However, somebody spotted an unassuming looking doorway just off the main road, instantly showing the necessary credentials for us by displaying the word “Bar” above the door. A couple of shouts around our increasingly large entourage and we piled through the doors and down the stairs.
Let’s be honest, it was a basement bar that on first impressions looked like it was a lap dancing club before any of the girls or indeed punters had turned up – moody, watchful bloke at the door, lots of cheap looking banquette/booth seating (must have been finest “leatherette”), a stage area (admittedly without a pole), and lots of unsubtle mood lighting. However, first impressions can be deceiving, and it turned out that we had actually wandered into a Karaoke bar, or at least a lap dancing bar with a non-nude Karaoke night. In fact, as we ordered our drinks, a drum kit was also being set up on the stage area, so it looked like there was going to be some live music alongside whatever amateur caterwauling there was later. A quick glance at the Karaoke list showed a fairly huge range of tunes, but as Mrs Lewis was very quick to point out “Where the hell is ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’? Good question. No self respecting Karaoke night should be without such a drunken classic.
Although we were pretty much the only customers in at this point, we immediately set a tableau that is seen in bars up and down the country as we drifted into our natural pub comfort zones – girls roaming around dancing, taking photos and generally having fun, whilst the gentlemen stood at the bar, nursing our drinks as we tried to appear cool and unaffected by it all. Or maybe we were just there to offer Gareth moral support as he went in search of peanuts.
Albertine Wine Bar (Wood Lane) 1 bottle Prosecco (between 6!) £19.80
Time for a hidden gem. Well, not that hidden to be fair because it was right on Wood Lane, which is a busy road leading away from Shepherds Bush Green. A slightly unusual but clearly visible gem then.
We knew it wasn’t far from the subterranean delights of Bar FM to get to Wood Lane Station, a tube stop so shiny and new that it didn’t even appear on our master copy of the London Underground map. We decided that it was a nice night for a stroll between stations, and soon discovered Albertine Wine Bar a little way around the corner.
It was a very continental, old-style wine bar, with bay windows looking in on ever so slightly shabby wooden tables and chairs throughout, decorated with nothing but candles. There was a tiny bar in one corner, which also doubled up as an off-sales counter, showing a dizzying array of wines arranged in the racks behind. Simple chalk boards on the walls offered seriously tempting cheese boards or meat platters, and there was also a more extensive menu of hot plates and tapas style food available.
Maybe we would have felt differently if we had been in on a week night and found it full of BBC types from the office up the road, but you can only review what is in front of you at the time, and in truth we thought it was an absolute cracker of a place – a hugely refreshing change from some of the chains and dives we had seen so far on the tour. I suppose considering our bias towards local beverages, it had to be considered a negative that there didn’t appear to be any English beers on (or indeed any beer at all). However, this was something of a moot point, since Mrs Lewis had already decided that we were going to join her in some bubbles at this establishment – and when Mrs Lewis is in the mood for fizz, only a brave or foolish man would even think about arguing. Prosecco ended up being the order of the day, and very good it was too.
Moving on was inevitable, but I think we could have spent quite some time in this place – the temptation to sit, drink wine, eat cheese and talk endless bollocks was a strong one. We did eventually mobilise the troops however, and prepared to take leave of our new friends. I only hope that the folk at Albertine liked us as much as we liked them – the place probably only held about 40 people, and we were up to almost twenty by this point. “I hope we weren’t too loud”, I had whispered into the Dictaphone as we left, which considering the members of our group, is a bit like saying “I hope the sea is not too wet”.